Friday, August 30, 2013

The Palestinian Authority's "Israeli Affairs Committee"

The Palestinian Authority's "Israeli Affairs Committee"

by Khaled Abu Toameh

What is really needed is a "Palestinian Affairs Committee" that would go to every mosque, school, university, village and refugee camp in the West Bank and Gaza to talk about peace and coexistence with Israel. To win the support of the Israeli public for peace, it should start by showing the Israelis that it is making every effort to convince Palestinians to support peace.

Instead of preparing Palestinians for peace with Israel, the Palestinian Authority leadership has decided to focus its efforts on winning the support of the Israeli public for a peaceful settlement based on the two-state solution.

In the context of its efforts to "convince" Israelis to accept the two-state solution, the Palestinian Authority recently established a special "Israeli Affairs Committee" with the goal of promoting the idea among the Israeli public.

The committee's main task, in fact, is to scare Israelis that failure to accept all Palestinian demands would plunge the region into another cycle of violence and bloodshed. The Palestinian Authority is hoping that to avoid another intifada, intimidated Israelis would put pressure on their government to comply with Palestinian demands.

Over the past few weeks, in a bid to "influence" public opinion in Israel, this committee organized a series of meetings between Palestinians and Israelis, Palestinian sources told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper.

The Palestinian committee, formed by Mahmoud Abbas, includes top PLO and Fatah officials Yasser Abed Rabbo, Nabil Sha'ath, Jibril Rajoub, Hanan Ashrawi and Mohamed Madani.

"Why should any Israeli believe the Palestinian Authority when most Palestinians appear to be opposed to the resumption of the peace talks?" asks Khaled Abu Toameh. In this photo, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, Israeli Justice Minister Livni, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Erekat address reporters in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Last week, the committee organized visits by Israeli parliamentarians to Ramallah, where they held talks with Abbas and other Palestinian officials to discuss prospects for peace in the Middle East.

One of the committee members explained, "Those we are meeting are the leaders of Israeli society and they will decide its fate. The Israeli public no longer knows what is happening here in the Palestinian territories."

It is always nice, of course, to see Israelis and Palestinians meeting and talking to each other.

But instead of devoting its efforts and energies to trying to persuade the Israeli public to support peace, it would be more helpful if the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank also tried to win the backing of their own people for the peace process.

Why should any Israeli believe the Palestinian Authority when most Palestinians appear to be opposed to the resumption of the peace talks?

Abbas does not even have the backing of the PLO and Fatah leaderships for his recent decision to return to the negotiating table with Israel, and returned to the peace talks with Israel against the advice of the PLO leadership.

Instead of inviting Israeli parliamentarians to Ramallah, Abbas might have tried to persuade the PLO and Fatah to support his efforts to achieve peace with Israel.

The Israeli parliamentarians who met with Abbas in his office last week already support the two-state solution and the peace process.

But most PLO and Fatah leaders remain opposed to the resumption of the peace talks.

As Abbas was meeting with the Israeli parliamentarians, thousands of Palestinians in the streets of Gaza City were demonstrating against the peace talks and two-state solution.

These are the people with whom Abbas needs to work to change their hearts and minds. These are the people who need to be told that peace with Israel will only do good for the Palestinians.

Why should any Israeli believe Abbas when his own supporters continue to wage a campaign to combat "normalization" with Israel?

While Abbas feels free to receive Knesset members in his Ramallah office, other Palestinians continue to receive threats for talking to, or doing business with, Israelis.

What is needed is a special "Palestinian Affairs Committee" that would work toward preparing Palestinians for peace with Israel.

The committee members should be asked to go to every mosque, school and university in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to talk about peace and coexistence with Israel.

The members also need to visit every village and refugee camp to talk to as many people as possible about the importance of peace.

They should also meet with representatives of all Palestinian factions to try to win their support for the peace process.

It would also be a good idea if such a committee would ask the Palestinian Authority to "lower the tone" and stop rhetorical attacks against Israel that drive Palestinians towards more extremism.

Inciting Palestinians against Israel through the media and mosques only serves the interests of Hamas and other radical Palestinians. Moreover, the anti-Israel rhetoric eventually undermines Abbas and anyone who conducts peace talks with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has chosen to "educate" Israelis about the significance of peace while it has done almost nothing to persuade its own people to move towards moderation and pragmatism.

If the Palestinian Authority really wants to win the support of the Israeli public for peace, it should start by showing that it is making every effort to convince Palestinians to support the peace process.

The Oasis of Middle East Calm and Cooperation

The Oasis of Middle East Calm and Cooperation

Primal Islamic rage has erupted all over the Middle East. Every day another report exposes the barbaric behavior of our neighbors, while in Judea and Samaria, cooperation grows.

Ron Jager

As we gaze at the countries that surround Israel - and at the entire Middle East - we see nothing but chaos and deadly conflict, with sovereign Arab states on one side and Arab leaders butchering their own people on the other side.

Suddenly, it seems as if all of this primal Islamic rage just popped out of nowhere. Every day another report exposes the barbaric behavior of our neighbors irrespective of and totally unrelated to Israel.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Arab nations have succeeded in distracting world attention from their own internal problems focusing international attention exclusively on Israel through the prism of the never ending conflict with the Palestinian Arabs. From a public relations perspective, they have succeeded all along the line, convincingly portraying Israel as an illegitimate state, blurring the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, that has no right to defend herself against the Islamic terror from within and without.

Despite the Arab nations lagging behind technologically, unable to feed their own people without foreign assistance - or even manufacture a world class bicycle - they have invested enormous amounts of resources to manufacture the “big lie” vis-à-vis the Palestinian Arabs and have successfully elevated a false and biased narrative convincing the world that we are modern day occupiers of the land of Israel.

To the surprise of many senior foreign journalists stationed in Israel, the sea of bedlam and anarchy just beyond Israel’s borders has brought to light an interesting development that might otherwise be considered unworthy of being reported. It seems that the greater the violence and bloodshed just over the border, the greater the significance and meaning of the relatively cordial relations and cooperation between Jews and Arabs here in Judea and Samaria becomes.

Interestingly, while the whole Middle East has exploded into armed conflict along religious, tribal and feudal lines, the level of co-existence of Jews and Palestinian Arabs has grown significantly higher, approaching the relatively good relations between Jews and Arabs in the period that preceded the Oslo Agreement.

Over 20,000 Palestinian Arabs work every day in Jewish communities and industrial parks located in Judea and Samaria.
During the past month, in conjunction with the Government Press Office led by Nitzan Chen  and the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria led by Dani Dayan, over 60 foreign journalists stationed in Israel toured industrial parks and factories in Judea and Samaria, witnessing how Jews and Palestinian Arabs work side by side on assembly lines and in management, both groups entering the factories through the same entrance, both using the same dining hall, both having the same worker compensation rights and paid vacation, both enjoying the benefits of Israel’s relative economic prosperity.

With over 20,000 Palestinian Arabs working every day in Jewish communities and industrial parks located in Judea and Samaria, there can be no denying that labels of occupation and apartheid are devoid of any meaning.

Almost immediately these journalists understand that much of what they knew and have been reporting stands in dark contrast to the true narrative and complex reality that one encounters in Judea and Samaria.

Almost immediately they understand that international accusations and attempts to present Israel as an apartheid-based society are totally false, They encounter the very opposite, an oasis of co-existence. They also understand that the situation in not without ups and downs, but can certainly be depicted as a success story, especially in light of what is transpiring just beyond Israel’s borders.

The journalists are presented with personal acquaintances of “settlers” working alongside Palestinian Arabs and have heart-to-heart talks with Palestinian Arabs who have only good things to report about their Jewish co-workers. Suddenly the self-imposed cataracts have been removed, the 'settlers' don’t have horns, they look like human beings, they speak the language of human beings. Suddenly the natural inclination to report on the 'settlers' through the prism of politics becomes uncomfortable. The reality is much more complex, and much more positive.

Being thrust into an oasis of co-existence in Judea and Samaria was not something that was easily digested by these journalists. A good example of the dissonance that they experienced was exemplified by the words of a Palestinian Arab worker they met. He told them that if the boycott of settler products becomes widespread, factories in Judea and Samaria will close down or slim down operations. The most immediate effect of this will be that of Palestinian Arab workers being sent home and joining the ranks of the unemployed.

The journalists were surprised to hear that the Palestinian Authority, despite the billions of dollars provided by the Western nations, has no unemployment insurance or other benefits to assist the local Arab population. Who picks up the slack?  Agents of Hamas operating under the pretense of social welfare workers, asking only for one thing in return for their help, support Hamas.

The journalists understood that the EU boycott initiated by the Palestinian Authority was self-defeating, detrimental to the well-being of the Palestinian Arab workers who have opted to work alongside Israelis, and comparable to shooting themselves in the foot.

What is transpiring today in Judea and Samaria is the real narrative of Judea and Samaria, co-existence, growing from the ground up and making a positive impact that cannot be denied by even the most implacable enemies of the State of Israel.

Go see for yourself - Palestinian Arabs and Jewish “settlers” working side by side in factories, in stores, wineries and restaurants throughout Judea and Samaria, an oasis of co-existence in a sea of conflict tearing apart the Middle East.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Muslim Brotherhood Groups and Their Jewish Friends

Muslim Brotherhood Groups and Their Jewish Friends

By Ryan Mauro 
An organizer of a Muslim Brotherhood-linked rally explicitly acknowledged its “friendship” with both the Brotherhood and “the Jewish Voice for Justice and Peace,” apparently referring the Jewish Voice for Peace. The organization is at the forefront of activism against Israel and the “Islamophobes” that stand against American Islamists, earning the affection of the Brotherhood’s allies.

The statement was made at a rally in Washington, D.C. led by Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights. The event was not only linked to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. It was linked directly to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the speakers was Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt. A receptionist at the news conference was evenrecorded by the Investigative Project on Terrorism saying, “This is a Muslim Brotherhood meeting.”

One of the organizers of this “Muslim Brotherhood meeting” was especially fond of its non-Muslim partners, but only one name came to mind: Jewish Voice for Justice and for Peace.
“[W]e are very proud, very proud of our friendship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Christian Brotherhood, and the Jewish Voice for Justice and for Peace. There is nothing wrong to have a relationship, a friendly relationship, with other organizations across the world,” said Oussama Jamal, chairman of the Muslim American Society—Public Affairs and Civic Engagement.

The Muslim American Society that Jamal is a senior official of has well-documented Brotherhood links.
In a 2008 court filing, federal prosecutors said MAS “was founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” This was confirmed by Abdurrahman Alamoudi, a convicted terrorist who is now known to have been a secret U.S. Muslim Brotherhood operative. He said just last year, “Everyone knows that MAS is the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The Investigative Project found that the president of Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights is listed as a high-level member of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood in an internal 1992 document. Another organizer, Shaker Elsayed, is the imam of the radical Dar al-Hijrah Mosque. He and his mosque are linked to the Brotherhood, as well. On January 26, he was videotaped preaching armed jihad at a Virginia high school.

No group named “Jewish Voice for Justice and for Peace” exists, but the closest match is Jewish Voice for Peace and its record of activism is something that can be appreciated by Islamist allies.

The Anti-Defamation League published a list of the Top 10 Anti-Israel Groups in America and the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) made the list, as did the Muslim American Society, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Al-Awda and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Technically, JVP made the list twice. Another ranking member is the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Four JVP chapters are members of the coalition. Its Interfaith Boycott Coalition has JVP as an official component.

In January, JVP helped organize a “No Blank Check for Israel” rally in Washington, D.C. that compared its activism to the civil rights struggle. The organization wants U.S. aid to Israel severed until there is an “end to the Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”

One of JVP’s Advisory Board members is Noam Chomsky. This summer, JVP sponsored a “We Divest Campaign Student Leadership Team Summer Training Institute.” It was a five-day training program for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists that included “non-violent direct action planning” and “anti-oppression analysis workshops.”

“In solidarity with the Palestinian Boycott National Committee and other Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations, JVP has initiated and sustained the largest divestment campaign mounted in the United States for Palestinian human rights,” the JVP website boasts.

JVP most recently joined the Muslim American Society, Council on American-Islamic Relations and other groups in pressuring the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles into cancelinga speaking engagement with Pamela Geller.

“We are witnessing an insidious new wave of demonization of Arabs and Muslims in this country. We are particularly concerned about right-wing Christian and Jewish groups dedicated to denying the fundamental rights of Palestinians, who are deliberately fueling fear of Muslims and Arabs to push their unfair agenda in the Middle East,” the website for JVP’s  Standing Against Islamophobia campaign states.
JVP has allied with Jews Say No! and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice to form the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition. One of its main objectives is stopping Pamela Geller from speaking for Jewish organizations. It also condemned the NYPD for showing the Clarion Project documentary The Third Jihad to about 1,500 police officers. The film is narrated by anti-Islamist Muslim activist Dr. Zuhdi Jasser and exposes radical Islam around the world, including the Islamist networks in the U.S. that JVP is close to.
Jews Against Islamophobia and American Jews for a Just Peace came together on September 16, 2010 to protest the Simon Wiesenthal Center for its opposition to Park51, more commonly known as the Ground Zero Mosque. The anti-Israel beliefs of the project’s lead imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, made no difference.
Considering this record, it’s not surprising that an Islamist organizer of a Muslim Brotherhood-linked rally would say he is “very proud of our friendship” with JVP. The organization has worked hard to earn that praise.

This article was sponsored by the Institute for Religion and Democracy.

Did the Palestinians revoke their Charter?

Did the Palestinians revoke their Charter?

On altering the P.L.O. covenant, which calls for Israel's destruction:

"Consequently, the P.L.O. undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian covenant."
Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the P.L.O. (in the exchange of letters with Israel on 9 September 1993)

six weeks later...

"Israel must not demand that the P.L.O. alter its covenant, just as the P.L.O. does not demand that the Jewish nation cancel the Bible."
Ziad Abu Ziad, senior P.L.O. official (in a speech to the American Jewish Federation, 23 October 1993)

"We have no intention of changing or nullifying the Covenant, rather, we will adhere to it until our last breath since it embodies the essence of our demands." 
Tayseer Qaba, deputy chairman of the PLO's Palestine National Council (A-Nahar, 19 September 1995, page 16)

"...The [Palestinian] National Council did not vote to annul the [Palestinian] Covenant, but rather announced its readiness to change the Covenant under certain terms. If the terms are met, it will be amended. Otherwise, the Covenant will remain as is. The Covenant has yet to be changed, and his is better understood by the enemy than by our own people...." - Secretary General of the Arab Liberation Front Mahmoud

'Abbas, otherwise known as Abu 'Abbas. The Israel-PLO Accords of 1993 required the Palestinian National Council to amend the Covenant, which calls for Israel's destruction, with no further conditions attached.
(Al-Bilad, 11 June 1998. Translation courtesy of MEMRI.)


PLO Cancels Clause Calling for Destruction of Israel
14 December, 1998
By Patrick Goodenough in the Gaza Strip CNS Special Correspondent
Monday, December 14, 1998

GAZA CITY - The Israeli government said Monday a show-of-hands vote by members of the Palestinian National Council and other Palestinian bodies had been an acceptable demonstration of support for the canceling of clauses in the PLO charter calling for Israel's destruction.

Reacting immediately after the meeting here addressed by President Bill Clinton, Israel's Trade and Industry Minister Nathan Sharansky conceded that Israelis had witnessed the exhibition of support for peace, but said Yasser Arafat had wasted a perfect opportunity to tell his people that violence against Israel must stop.

"We accept this vote," he said. "We think this is a positive development. We think it should be said in Arabic more and more clearly and more and more often [that violence is an unacceptable option]."

Sharansky said the Israeli inner cabinet would meet within the next hour to discuss today's events and consider whether or not Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will participate in a three-way summit with Clinton and Arafat this evening.

Earlier, Arafat welcomed Clinton to the gathering of members of the PNC and other Palestinian political, legislative and religious organizations. He reiterated that a letter he sent to Clinton last January confirmed that the PLO had dropped clauses in its charter offensive to Israel.

He then called on the meeting to demonstrate their support for this and other decisions relating to amending the charter.

"I appeal to you to approve and confirm the previous decisions [by Palestinian bodies relating to changing the charter] ' to support the peace process. So would you be kind to raise your hands to agree on this?"

Most of the 600-odd people in the auditorium appeared to clap, and many stood. Arafat then informed Clinton that the Palestinians had thereby fulfilled their commitments.

To applause, Clinton said after the show of hands that the Palestinian officials had delivered a powerful message, not to the Israeli government, but to the Israeli people.

Yet the most resounding cheers, and a standing ovation, were earned by Arafat, when he spoke in front of Clinton of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

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Kaddoumi: PLO charter was never changed
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH, Jerusalem Post 23rd April 2004.

Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO's hard-line "foreign minister," said Thursday that when Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat talks about the need to pursue the struggle against Israel, he is referring to the armed struggle. Kaddoumi said the armed struggle was the only way to force Israel to accept the demands of the Palestinians. 

Kaddoumi's remarks were made in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab. He admitted that the PLO charter, which denies Israel's right to exist, was never changed. 

In response to a question what does Arafat mean when he talks about the continuation of the struggle, Kaddoumi, who is one of the few PLO leaders still living in Tunisia, said: "Yes, the national struggle must continue. I mean the armed struggle. In the past we abandoned our political parties in favor of the armed struggle. 

"Fatah was established on the basis of the armed struggle and that this was the only way to leading to political negotiations that would force the enemy to accept our national aspirations. Therefore there is no struggle other than the armed military struggle." 

Commenting on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, Kaddoumi said: "If Israel wants to leave the Gaza Strip, then it should do so. This means that the Palestinian resistance has forced it to leave. But the resistance will continue. Let the Gaza Strip be South Vietnam. We will use all available methods to liberate North Vietnam." 

Kaddoumi revealed that the PLO leadership has entrusted him with being responsible for the "portfolio" of supporting the Iraqi resistance against the US-led coalition forces in Iraq. "There is no doubt that the Palestinian revolution supports the Iraqi resistance and we have seen demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories in backing the intifada and resistance in Iraq," he said. "I'm in charge of this issue and I condemn the American position." 

Kaddoumi welcomed the establishment of an armed group in Iraq named after slain Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, saying this would increase pressure on the US. He described the new anti-American group as an "excellent phenomenon." 

Kaddoumi said that, contrary to what many people believe, the PLO charter was never changed so as to recognize Israel's right to exist. "The Palestinian national charter has not been amended until now," he explained. "It was said that some articles are no longer effective, but they were not changed. I'm one of those who didn't agree to any changes." 

Asked about US and Israeli demands to halt terror attacks as a condition for resuming the peace process,

Kaddoumi replied: "They can go to hell!"

UNRWA's Anti-Israel Bias

UNRWA's Anti-Israel Bias

by Arlene Kushner

On October 22, 2010, the outgoing director of the New York office of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Andrew Whitley, stunned his listeners at a Washington conference by arguing that "the right of return is unlikely to be exercised to the territory of Israel to any significant or meaningful extent," and that UNRWA should help resettle the refugees rather than perpetuate their refugee status.[1]

Confronted with a barrage of criticism from the Palestinian Authority and many Arab states, Whitley quickly backed down, claiming, "It is definitely not my belief that the refugees should give up on their basic rights, including the right of return."

Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes commented: "That UNRWA might contemplate going out of business and helping end the Arab-Israeli conflict … was too good to be true."[2]

Indeed it was, especially when taking into account that UNRWA was established more than sixty years ago on December 8, 1949, as a temporary humanitarian organization: "To carry out in collaboration with local governments the direct relief and works programs" and to "consult with the interested Near Eastern governments concerning measures to be taken by them preparatory to the time when international assistance for relief and works projects is no longer available."[3]

A Gaza mall bustles in July 2010. On November 11, 2010, Ging complained of persistent supply problems attending the Israeli blockade. Yet two weeks later, he rebutted this assertion, as well as the claim by UNRWA's commissioner-general Filippo Grandi that Israel had not allowed the entry of a single truckload of construction materials, by acknowledging that "the shops were full of consumer goods."
With the passage of time, this modest, transient outfit has evolved into a permanent feature of the Middle Eastern sociopolitical landscape with tentacles spreading well beyond its originally mandated relief operations to virtually all walks of Palestinian life from education, to health, to community-based services, to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The propensity for senior UNRWA staff to make inappropriate, incendiary, and highly politicized statements—in stark contrast to the organization's mandate—has long been documented by the Jerusalem-based Center for Near East Policy Research.[4] The case made by UNRWA staff, that such statements are a necessary element of protecting the Palestinian refugees, can be seen to be without justification: Nowhere is "protection" in the political sense part of the UNRWA mandate; UNRWA was originally charged with providing direct relief and work programs, and this was later expanded to include education. Moreover, even if political protection had been mandated, it would not warrant misrepresentations of fact, let alone incitement.

This document tracks that trend during the course of 2010 with a special emphasis on the agency's statements concerning the Gaza situation with the author's rebuttals in italics.

Whitewashing Hamas

In a Sky TV News interview from Gaza, John Ging, director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, said:

The announcement [regarding Israeli intentions in Operation Cast Lead] was that this whole war was about demolishing the infrastructure of terrorism. But we look around and see that this was not the case. The infrastructures of the economy and education were destroyed. And the infrastructure of the government—ministries and the president's compound. These are not the infrastructures of terror, these are the infrastructures of peace—the infrastructures of a state … the parliament building, the infrastructure of democracy.[5]

This protestation of innocence is highly disingenuous for it is inconceivable that Ging was unaware of Hamas's propensity for operating from within civilian infrastructure, housing terrorists and weapons in private homes and public buildings (mosques, hospitals, schools, etc.), and using such sites for rocket and missile attacks.[6] By alluding to the parliament building—used by the Hamas terror group, the governing entity of Gaza—as an "infrastructure of democracy," Ging willfully distorted the oppressive reality in the strip.

In early April 2010—ignoring the years of radicalization of the Gaza population under the influence of Hamas-controlled UNRWA schools[7]—Ging laid the blame for the dismal state of Gaza youngsters at Israel's feet:

If you have no reason to live, you will seek a glorious death. It's worse now than it ever was before. A whole generation of Palestinians will have never got out of the besieged strip, never interacted with foreigners, or even met Israelis except as enemy soldiers intent on killing and destruction. Their violent behavior and disrespect to their parents is symptomatic of the desperation they are growing up in.[8]

On April 22, Ging gave a major press conference at the U.N. where he claimed that the people of Gaza were "struggling to survive" because of the "political situation," ignoring altogether the underlying causes of their plight:

There is a distance between the mischaracterization of Gaza, as a so-called "hostile entity," and the scale of the civility of the people who populate the Gaza Strip in these very uncivilized circumstances. They are very civilized people who manifest very clearly interact[ion] with visitors.[9]

The denial of Gaza's position as a "hostile entity" is a highly politicized and totally false statement. When thousands of rockets have been fired from the strip at Israeli population centers for nearly a decade, and its governing party Hamas is openly sworn to Israel's destruction,[10] Gaza cannot but be considered a hostile entity by any political, legal, or moral criterion. Ging implies that the Gaza residents are devoid of associations with Hamas—which he never mentioned—and totally innocent bystanders.

Additionally, Ging insisted:

All [UNRWA] teaching staff is closely vetted by the U.N. in order to provide a non-political education.[11]

This is perhaps Ging's most outrageous misrepresentation of the facts at this press conference. The reality is that Hamas, via its affiliate Islamic Bloc, has dominated the UNRWA teachers' union in Gaza for fifteen years, and, in 2006, gained full control of the union's executive council. Hamas enormously influences the education in the classroom.[12]

Promoting the Flotilla

On May 3, in an interview in his Gaza office with the Norwegian paper Aftenposten, Ging urged international intervention in Gaza since "Israel refuses to act reasonably":

Therefore we ask the international community: Bring us the supplies we need to rebuild schools and run them; bring us the supplies we need [for] hospitals and medical centers. Everybody knows how desperate the situation [in the Gaza Strip] is after almost three years of blockade. We need action now.

And who would stop the ship with such things as teaching materials and materials to [build] schools? In that case, we would get a new reality for the international community. Then the purpose of the blockade would be to destroy Gaza, not to protect Israel.[13]

We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and human rights organizations have been successful in similar, previous operations proving that breaking the siege of Gaza is possible. Where there is a political will, there is always a way.[14]

The blatant incitement for action against Israel, hardly a part of UNRWA's mandate, made news internationally and was repeated in a variety of media sources. Not only does it inflate the severity of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and ignore its real causes, but it arguably helped inspire the so-called "Freedom Flotilla" launched later that month. A May 6 flotilla video from the "Free Gaza Movement"—which begins by citing Ging—provides prima facie documentation of this.[15]

Misrepresenting the Gaza situation

On July 7, 2010, a British member of the European parliament, Chris Davies, sent a letter to the British foreign secretary in which he said that he had met with Ging, who had "confirmed the view that… Israel's blockade of the territory [Gaza] is profoundly counterproductive … Ging emphasized that although Israel was now allowing all foodstuffs through its checkpoints, it was not allowing anything for construction, commerce, and industry."[16]

Ging ignored the Israeli concern about letting into Gaza materials that would enable Hamas to build bunkers and storage areas for rockets or otherwise strengthen the organization's infrastructure. Also ignored was the Israeli government's announcement on June 20, 2010, of the loosening of restrictions and of plans to meet with international agencies to discuss advancing such projects as the construction of schools and hospitals.[17] In fact, three months earlier in March 2010, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon announced that Israel would be launching a housing project in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, which would involve the rebuilding of 150 housing units, a mill, an UNRWA school, and sewage infrastructure.[18] This alone refutes the statement that Israel was not permitting construction.

In mid-September Ging claimed that much of the water in Gaza was polluted and that 90 percent of it was not drinkable.[19]

What Ging neglects to acknowledge is that Israel continues to send water into Gaza even though there is no requirement to do so according to international law: Every year Israel provides five million cubic meters of water (each cubic meter equals 1,000 liters) to Gaza, transferred through three pipes—one in the center of the Gaza Strip and two in the southern part of the strip—in addition to the shipment of bottled mineral water via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

As to water sources within Gaza, they are administered exclusively by the Palestinian water board with no Israeli interference. The entire water infrastructure (including water processing) that belonged to the Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip was left intact and ready for use when Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005.[20]

At that time, Israeli and Palestinian officials toured the Israeli water processing facilities to ensure their proper operation. The Palestinians were given documentation to allow them to use the facilities the Israelis built to process sewage water for reuse in agriculture. Whether the facilities have been used efficiently is another question: It was noted at the time of the tour that chlorine that was being held by the Israelis for use in the water plant was not promptly claimed for use by the Palestinian Authority (PA).[21] On September 13, 2010, Jerusalem allowed 250 tons of construction materials into the strip to upgrade a major sewage plant in Gaza City.[22]

On May 18, 2010, an Olympic-sized swimming pool was opened in Gaza.[23] As recently as summer 2010, a "Crazy Water Aqua Fun Park," featuring three swimming pools, a canal 100 meters long, and ponds, was held in Gaza. [24] Whatever water resources are available in the strip were sufficient for these projects and activities.

On October 16, 2010, welcoming the international group calling itself "The Elders," a group of global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela,[25] in their visit to Gaza, Ging said:

I am delighted that the Elders come again to Gaza to witness and speak of simple and obvious truths that go untold. The truth that every one of the 800,000 children in Gaza knows is that we are in the fourth year of an illegal, inhumane, and counterproductive blockade on 1.5 million innocent civilians.[26]

Leaving aside Ging's cavalier use of figures to exaggerate the Gaza situation—four months earlier he spoke of 750,000, rather than 800,000 children allegedly "paying the toll" of the Israeli blockade[27]—Israel has not been contravening international law and has actually exceeded its requirements with regard to the extent of humanitarian assistance permitted into Gaza.[28] Moreover, while Ging uses the term "blockade" broadly, in actuality the only blockade is at sea as hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian and commercial goods are allowed into Gaza weekly via land crossings from Israel.[29]

On November 11, Ging complained of persistent problems attending the Israeli blockade:

There's been no material change for the people on the ground here in terms of their status, the aid dependency, the absence of any recovery or reconstruction, no economy … The easing, as it was described, has been nothing more than a political easing of the pressure on Israel and Egypt.[30]

Yet three weeks later Ging rebutted his own claim by acknowledging that "the shops were full of consumer goods."[31]

Still in December, addressing a Gaza festival promoting a reduction in gender violence, Ging blamed Israel for the prevalence of this phenomenon by claiming that the "blockade" had devastated the economy and made daily life more difficult. Consequently, domestic violence had increased due to escalating levels of stress and unemployment.[32]

On December 27, Ging gave a talk at the Limmud Conference in Britain—an annual broad-based, Jewish community learning week featuring lectures and workshops. He acknowledged that matters were not dire—infant mortality figures, for example, were those of the first world; and while there were hungry children, "they're not emaciated." Yet he claimed that "we should not wait until they are emaciated" as the situation was deteriorating.

But less than two minutes further into the talk, he contradicted the deterioration claim by saying that "we've now turned the corner … since the new Israeli government decision [June 2010] on adjusting the blockade, every day is better than yesterday."[33]

New Commissioner, Same Old Story

In January 2010, Filippo Grandi succeeded Karen Abu Zayd as UNRWA commissioner-general. His inauguration statement to the organization's staff, posted on the UNRWA website, promoted the theme of Israeli injustices against the Palestinians of Gaza:

I need not tell you how difficult this period is for the Palestinian people. We are all painfully aware of the counterproductive policies collectively punishing the people of the Gaza Strip; conscious decisions that have caused untold suffering and a dramatic deterioration in the lives of the population, in contravention of international law.[34]

Like Ging, Grandi takes a highly politicized view of the Gaza situation, ignoring altogether its underlying causes—the years of continuous missile attacks on Israel's cities and villages—and misrepresenting both the nature and scope of the Israeli reaction and its legality.

On May 31, Grandi issued a joint statement with Robert Serry, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, about the flotilla incident, which laid the blame for the event solely on Israel:

We are shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on board boats carrying supplies for Gaza, apparently in international waters. We condemn the violence and call for it to stop … We wish to make clear that such tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of the international community to end its counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza.[35]

Referring yet again to the flotilla incident on June 6, Grandi argued that

It is terrible to say this, but I hope that the tragedy could be a turning point, a watershed in terms of the blockade. I hope that world leaders, those who make decisions, open their eyes to the suffering of the Palestinians.

This time, however, he included a veiled threat: "If you have one and half million Palestinians affected 60 kilometers from Tel Aviv, it is not a healthy situation for Israel's security," he said,[36] describing Gaza as the "largest open-air prison in the world."[37] At the beginning of July, during a visit to Japan, Grandi again framed his Gaza concerns as a veiled threat:

Frustration among refugees in Gaza has reached a bursting point with further unrest likely unless Israel lifts its blockade against them immediately. There is mounting disturbance among the refugees because they do not see their problems solved … this commotion will pose a risk to the peace process.[38]

In the fall of 2010, Grandi was still echoing the same themes. Calling for an end to Israel's "siege" of Gaza, he maintained that children enrolled in UNRWA schools would be studying in 186 shipping containers[39] since Israel had not allowed the entry of one single truckload of construction materials requested by UNRWA.

Grandi's claim that Israel has not allowed entry of a single truckload of construction materials is not only false but the inverse of the truth. As the October 2010 report by the Israeli Coordinator of Government Assistance in the Territories (COGAT) makes clear:

Materials were transferred, via crossings from Israel into Gaza, in October for the follow UNRWA projects:

Riad school in Rafah, 32 truckloads.
Eight classrooms being constructed in the Za'arah school, one truckload.
Rehabilitation of a medical center in Nutzirat, 21 truckloads,
Five housing units in Um-Nazer, seven truckloads,
Seven housing units in Khan Younis, nine truckloads.[40]

On November 30, Grandi released a statement to the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting that was held in Jordan, which included the following:

In the West Bank, there were signs of continuing economic growth. However, the context of occupation, human rights violations, and a variety of related factors conspired to deny many Palestinians and Palestine refugees the material benefits of economic revival. These factors included the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land; the separation barrier; and the associated regime of movement restrictions … unacceptable and growing restrictions are replicated throughout the West Bank and are incompatible with the objective of Palestinian statehood as affirmed by the international community, and as embodied in the plan of the Palestinian Authority in that regard.[41]

Grandi's politicized statements regarding Palestinians who are not refugees and the objectives of Palestinian statehood as embodied in the PA plan, on the one hand, and regarding Israel's activities in the disputed territories, on the other, are well beyond the purview of UNRWA.

Politicizing UNRWA

On June 18, 2010, in response to Israel's pronounced intention to ease restrictions on materials allowed into Gaza, Christopher Gunness, UNRWA spokesperson, demanded the complete "lifting [of] the siege and blockade, which is regarded as a violation of international law," adding that the "collective punishment of 1.5 million" people in Gaza was illegal.[42] Four days later, in a widely cited statement, he argued that nothing short of the full lifting of Israel's blockade would allow Gaza to be rebuilt:

The Israeli strategy is to make the international community talk about a bag of cement here, a project there. We need full unfettered access through all the crossings … Israel's blockade became a blockade against the U.N.[43]

Masterful for its public relations effect, this statement is a blatant distortion of reality in that it pits Israel against the U.N., which wants school construction materials brought into Gaza, rather than against the strip's actual ruler—Hamas—which seeks to smuggle weapons to destroy Israel and building materials for weapons bunkers. Needless to say, Gunness fails to acknowledge Israel's legitimate need to prevent weapons or potential war materials targeting its civilian population from reaching Gaza. In referring to an Israeli strategy of making the international community talk about "a bag of cement here, a project there"—a phrase that caught on with the media—Gunness obscured the fact that Jerusalem had reasons for what was being done (which he surely knew) and created the false impression that it was being arbitrarily negative.

In a highly politicized article, run by the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency on December 16, Gunness commented on political issues well beyond his purview as a representative of UNRWA, or for that matter beyond UNRWA's mandate, and further promoted the organization's involvement in political matters. The article included the following:

The arrival of that day [when UNRWA can fold its operations], however, is contingent upon a real peace process that bears tangible results for Palestine refugees in line with United Nations resolutions and with international law and practice …

UNRWA recognizes that the API [Arab Peace Initiative] is an important element in the pursuit of peace.

The responsibility to ensure a negotiated end to the conflict lies with states and other political actors. That said, UNRWA is a stakeholder in the outcomes of any peace process. The agency is obligated to advocate for the realization and protection of the human rights of Palestine refugees … In keeping with UNRWA's mandate and its focus on promoting the well-being of refugees, the agency could serve as a facilitator and advisor to refugees, the United Nations and other entities engaged in formulating and implementing a future dispensation.[44]

Arlene Kushner serves as a consultant for the Center for Near East Policy Research, Jerusalem and drew this article from an investigative report she undertook for the center.

[1] "Hamas Is in Contact with Most Foreign Countries," The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 23, 2010.
[2] Daniel Pipes, "UNRWA Official Calls on Palestinians to Accept Reality,", Oct. 23, 2010.
[3] "Assistance to Palestine Refugees," A/RES302 (IV), United Nations General Assembly, New York, Dec. 8, 1949.
[4] See, for example, Arlene Kushner, "UNRWA: A Hard Look at an Agency in Trouble," The Center for Near East Policy Research, Jerusalem, Sept. 2005; idem, "UNRWA: Its Role in Gaza," The Center for Near East Policy Research, Jerusalem, Aug. 2009.
[5] "UNRWA's John Ging and Children's Psychiatric Hospital in Gaza," YouTube, Jan. 4, 2010.
[6] See, for example, Jonathan Fighel, "Hamas in Gaza—Urban Warfare Strategy," International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Jan. 11, 2009; The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 15, 2010.
[7] Kushner, "UNRWA: Its Role in Gaza," pp. 10-2; author e-mail correspondence with Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi, spring 2009.
[8] "Guns n' teddy bears," Journey to Gaza: A Journalist's Diary Blog, Apr. 3, 2010.
[9] Kuwait News Agency, Apr. 22, 2010.
[10] "Hamas Covenant 1988," Yale Law School Avalon Project, accessed Mar. 30, 2011.
[11] Talk Radio News Service, Apr. 22, 2010.
[12] Kushner, "UNRWA: Its Role in Gaza"; The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 29, 2009.
[13] Aftenposten (Oslo), May 3, 2010.
[14] Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding (Dalton, Ga.), June 15, 2010.
[15] "John Ging Gaza," YouTube, accessed Mar. 30, 2011; Aftenposten (Oslo), May 3, 2010.
[16] Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA, Tehran), July 7, 2010.
[17] "The Civilian Policy towards the Gaza Strip: The Implementation of the Cabinet Decision (June 2010)," Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (CoGAT), Israel Ministry of Defense, Jerusalem.
[18] ShalomLife (Concord, Ont.), Mar. 24, 2010.
[19] The Voice (Leuven, Belg.), Sept. 20, 2010.
[20] Author e-mail correspondence with Guy Inbar, CoGAT, Jan. 3, 2011.
[21] Shlomo Dror, CoGAT, "Israel Turns over Gaza Water Processing Facility to Palestinians," Jewish Virtual Library, Nov. 21, 2005.
[22] "Construction Equipment to Upgrade Gaza Sewage Treatment Facilities," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 13, 2010.
[23] Ma'an News Agency (Bethlehem), May 18, 2010; Israel Matzav blog, May 25, 2010.
[24] "Crazy Water Park—Gaza,", accessed Mar. 31, 2011. The park was closed by Hamas and subsequently burned down by vandals.
[25] "About the Elders," The Elders website, accessed Mar. 19, 2011.
[26] "Gaza: the Simple Truths that Go Untold," The Elders, Oct. 16, 2010.
[27] Ma'an News Agency, June 27, 2010.
[28] The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 27, 2010; Abraham Bell, "Is Israel Bound by International Law to Supply Utilities, Goods, and Services to Gaza?" Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Feb. 28, 2008.
[29] See, for example, "Gaza Strip—Land Crossing Activities: Crossing Status Weekly Report," CoGAT, Mar. 13-19, 2011.
[30] BBC News, Nov. 11, 2010.
[31] John Ging, UNRWA, U.N. press briefing, Nov. 30, 2010; idem, presentation, Limmud Conference of Jewish Learning, London, Dec. 27, 2010.
[32] "Gazans Rally Together at Festival to Combat Gender Violence," U.N. Women, New York, Dec. 9, 2010.
[33] Ging, Limmud Conference of Jewish Learning, Dec. 27, 2010.
[34] "Commissioner-General's Inaugural Letter to Staff," UNRWA, Jan. 26, 2010.
[35] Robert Serry and Filippo Grandi, joint statement, Office of the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Jerusalem, May 31, 2010.
[36] Ma'an News Agency, June 8, 2010.
[37] All Voices News (San Francisco), June 8, 2010; Stephen Lendman, "End the Gaza Siege," MWC News, June 15, 2010.
[38] The Daily News Egypt (Giza), July 2, 2010; Now Lebanon, July 2, 2010; Agence France-Presse, July 2, 2010.
[39] "Alternative Report Submitted to UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Response to Israel's Third Periodic Report" (E/C.12/ISR/3), The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Gaza City, Oct. 18, 2010.
[40] "Humanitarian and Civilian Activities vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip – Monthly Report, October 2010," CoGAT, Nov. 10, 2010.
[41] "Commissioner-general's Statement on the UNRWA Advisory Committee Meeting," Mövenpick Hotel, Dead Sea, Jordan, Nov. 30, 2010.
[42] BBC World Service, June 18, 2010; Ma'an News Agency, June 18, 2010.
[43] Reuters, June 26, 2010.
[44] Ma'an News Agency, Dec. 16, 2010.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Call A Spade A Spade: The Palestinians Lied

Call A Spade A Spade: The Palestinians Lied

As we know, three Arabs were shot and killed during huge, violent riots, when the Israeli border police tried to arrest a terrorist suspect in Qalandiya Refugee camp. Almost immediately their media reported:
The PA has canceled peace talks scheduled for today following the killing of three palestinians in the Qalandia refugee camp.
Except it turns out there were scheduled talks, they were not cancelled and they went ahead completely as normal. So, clearly, the PA lied (probably to have something to tell their own Arab “street”).
Jump now to the US State Department briefing and the best damn reporter in the whole wide world. Mr Matt Lee of the AP. You can see the whole clip here (jump to 22:55 if you want) but I’ve selected something right from the end. Matt has already spent 10 minutes trying to get an answer out of Spokeshole Harf without much success.

QUESTION: Except that I do know the specifics and I know why you’re being so reluctant. So – but I just wish you would be clear, because clearing up – there is one side in this situation that is not telling the truth. It’s not the American –

QUESTION: This side. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, it’s not the American side and it’s not the Israeli side. So why don’t we just come out –

MS. HARF: Is there a question?

QUESTION: Yeah. Why don’t you just come out and call a spade a spade? Why not just come out and clear the air and say this is what’s going on, and that’s it?

MS. HARF: Because we’ve been clear that all of these issues – that these negotiations and all of the sticky issues around the logistics and the substance and all of that is going to be discussed privately to give them the best chance of success.

QUESTION: But you know what the –

MS. HARF: So I know it’s frustrating to you, but –

QUESTION: Okay. Okay, listen –

MS. HARF: – this is all – wait, let me finish, Matt.

QUESTION: Listen, but no one is asking about –

MS. HARF: Can I finish, Matt, please?

QUESTION: – the specifics about what is being talked about.

MS. HARF: You’re asking about a lot of specifics –


MS. HARF: – about logistics and –

QUESTION: Specifics of what? This is –

MS. HARF: And honestly, logistics matter in the Middle East peace process. We’ve all followed this. It’s not just who was at the meeting and who sat at the table. Every single piece of this is sensitive and is part of very delicate negotiations that, as we’ve seen for decades, haven’t worked. So we want to keep everything as discrete and private as possible to give us the best chance of finally succeeding with this. So I’m sorry that I can’t tell you what time a meeting started and what time it ended, but there’s a good reason for it.

QUESTION: All right. Well –

MS. HARF: And it’s to give it a chance for success.

QUESTION: Sorry. No one asked what time it started and what time it ended. We just wanted to know – one side came out –

MS. HARF: Again –

QUESTION: – and said that the meeting had been canceled. You’re saying nothing has been canceled, but you won’t say that the meeting took place.

MS. HARF: Again –

QUESTION: There’s a lot of wiggle room in that statement, and that is the problem.

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything further for you on this.